A Special Quinceanera Celebration in El Valle

On December 16th, 46 young ladies celebrated their Quinceanera because of the help of local expats. In mid October I James Farelli received a call from a friend asking to meet at the Paseo El Valle,

there, 8 gentlemen (expats and Panamanians) gathered to discuss ways to help youth in the community. The overall idea was to give something back to the community we call home.

Many different ideas were discussed but the idea of a Quinceanera was put forward by Micheal Borrero. The idea came from his wife Felicia and daughter Cindy. A the Quinceanera is the Panamanian, coming out party for 15 year olds as it is known in Europe or sweet 16 in the U.S.

Once they started publicizing the event they realized that the interest was much greater than anticipated. Over 70 girls were interviewed in their schools, communities, etc. The interview sought to find out what type of party they had, if any, and show proof of their age. Given their limited resources they set a limit of 25 of the poorest girls: girls whose birthdays had not been celebrated in any form. They had no birthday cake, food, party, music, etc. The remaining girls who wished to participate were called “Damas”, or Ladies.

The committee had two messages to share with the Quinceaneras:
1-Study and make college their goal and,
2- Delay becoming a parent until they finished college and were working in their chosen profession.

When committee members realized the strong interest in this activity, they were the first to contribute money and fundraise with friends and community members. The community response was so great that in the final count 43 girls were given dress and/or shoes. Each “Quinceanera” also brought their escort, or “Caballero”, which gave a total of 86 young men and women. Finally their  their parents also attended. The meal included chicken, rice, cake, soda, and more.

This ambitious celebration was made possible because of the tremendous generosity of this community, especially member of the committee. Aryam Bernal, the marketing manager of Paseo el Valle, provided the large room to accommodate over the 200 people that attended this activity.

Committee members like Lisa and Dave Carter who lent the group over one hundred chairs from their church, Igelsia de Cristo; Ellen and Chris Thomas who designed the beautiful program; Gayle and Bobby Williams who did a fantastic decorating job; Jan and Dave de Rocher whose flowers were stunning. Mireya Bernal who donated 25 tiaras. Laurie Ann Stratton, Nicole and Graham Davis, Marand Nave all who donated money, time and energy to make this event possible.

More than two thousand dollars was donated for this event. Thanks to all of the sponsors for their generous support. Mail Box, Etc. in Coronado was an exceptional contributor: printing 250 copies of the program, donating over 400 sodas and rice for the meal.

The organizers are very grateful to all of the sponsors and there is talk of doing this again next year!

By: James Farelli